After a South Korean newspaper accused Chinese ships of illicitly selling oil to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or North Korea, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that China was “caught RED HANDED.”
“Very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!” Trump wrote in a post on Twitter.
The statement by President Trump comes after South Korean media reported that satellite imagery shows Chinese ships allegedly transferring oil to the DPRK.
China, however, has responded to the allegations and said that China has “comprehensively, accurately, faithfully and strictly” implemented UN Security Council sanctions against the DPRK.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying called on accusing media to stop speculating.
“I would like to know whether the relevant media could specify which ship or ships were involved in the situation. Are they on the sanctions list of the United Nations Security Council? If not, what made them conclude that these ships violated the Security Council resolution? Any solid evidence?” Hua said in a press conference on Thursday.
“If there is solid evidence proving that there is on the Chinese side any violation of the Security Council resolutions, China will surely deal with it in accordance with laws and regulations, and not a single case of violation should get away with it,” she continued.
Offering some “advice” for foreign media outlets involved in the accusations, Hua suggested that they focus on whether or not their own government has fully implemented all relevant UN Security Council resolutions concerning the DPRK, particularly those that call for all parties to work toward de-escalation and diplomacy.
“We hope to see comprehensive and complete implementation of those resolutions: not just measures taken to curb the DPRK's nuclear and missile development, but also more positive and constructive efforts to bring the tense and runaway situation on the Peninsula back on the right track of peaceful settlement through dialogue and negotiation,” Hua said.
Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Ren Guoqiang also reiterated that China has fully complied with sanctions. “The situation you have mentioned absolutely does not exist,” he said.
Last week's most recent round of U.S.-drafted Security Council resolutions places further caps on petroleum exports to the DPRK, capping them at 500,000 barrels a year.
According to Reuters, the U.S. was pressuring for the Security Council to blacklist 10 ships for conducting ship-to-ship oil transfers to the DPRK, but China and Russia have asked for more time to consider the proposal.
China has taken center stage in U.S.-led pressures on the DPRK, with the Trump administration repeatedly claiming that it is China's responsibility to apply economic and political pressure on the North Korean government. China has long been the DPRK's largest and most important trading partner, despite disagreements surrounding their nuclear program.
Xi Jinping and other top Chinese officials have been instrumental in pushing for a diplomatic solution to the tensions on the Korean peninsula, calling on U.S. forces to be withdrawn in exchange for a halt in missile tests from the government of Kim Jong-un.